Jesus, Take the Wheel
I’ve always been a fan of cars. I bought into their prowess of cool long ago. A prowess build by the ad industry and Hollywood. Everything from Back to the Future, American Graffiti, like EVERY James Bond, The Italian Job, Dukes of Hazzard, etc, my eyes would be fixed on the cars in their scenes. Ignoring the plot and the actors. “Just look at that form, those curves, that liquid finish” I’d think to myself. “That is a cool fucking car”. Not just cars though, trucks and bikes too. Honestly the yellow Jeep Commanche from Twister is one of my all time favorite movie vehicles on the planet. AND the black Toyota Tacoma at the end of the the 3rd Back to the Future is my definition of #truckgoals.
So it goes to show, I’ve been that person my whole life. (It’s truly no surprise my partner is a mechanic). This not-so-low-key obsession occupied my thoughts from the ages of 13 to 16 when I was learning to drive. Selling cars via ads or movies (especially in the vintage era) meant selling freedom. I bought into freedom with every penny I had. Not because I needed to get away for any real reason, just simply to be absorbed by the image of utmost coolness.
God, Please Help The Cars
That being said, what the hell happened to cars? Cars that are built now, your average run-of-the-mill 2000’s model Chevy sedan for example, does possibly the worst job of channeling cool, freedom, or loveliness than anything else on the planet. All new stuff isn’t bad. Yeah the super car category would be an exception to that. The Hybrid Bugatti Chiron for example is on it’s own planet where ‘cool’ is the primary element fused into every atom. BUT my comparison falls only to regular joe cars accessible, mass produced, and designed by the rules of what the current times’ culture deems marketable.
For example, try selling the 40,000lb hunk of clunk that was the 1967 Ford Pinto in todays market. Not only would the signature rear-end explosions be the target of internet trolls everywhere but customers would be starting a sub-reddit simply for posting videos of people laughing hysterically at the salesman after hearing the MPG rating.
What is cool?
The only thing that can channel real and sublime ‘cool’ is a vintage car. You need the deafening sound of a real (typically 12 feet long) steel door slamming closed on the slightest push. You need the weird smell of leather and metal thats currently rusting. You need the rattle going down the road. All the fucking rattles, of the trillions of mechanical bits slamming around pointlessly. It doesn’t need to be too vintage, but definitely can’t be anything newer than the 80’s. Plastic = Not cool. AC = Not cool. Various mechanisms of comfort = you guessed it cool.
Here’s the punch line, driving a 2015 Chevy Malibu is just fine. There nothing wrong with normal cars that get people from A to B. But think of car’s soul as deteriorating. Because what will a vintage car show, like the one pictured above on Beale Street in Memphis, even consist of in 20 years? I can tell you it won’t be a 2007 Honda Accord. It’ll still be the ’67 Mustang GT, or the ’79 Pontiac Firebird under a tarp in some ones garage. Because those hunks of steel, leather upholstery, wood dashes, ostentatious gear shifters, 8 inch round headlights, white wall tires, and edgy curves hold all the soul that advertisers promised. You don’t need to go fast to feel it, or even be moving at all. It’s a warm rush of tingles that matches the engines crank and proceeds to soar as high as the RPMS. That’s what cool sounds like.